The Emerging Roles of Collective Care for Global Feminist Movements

Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific
5 min readMay 16, 2023

What You Need To Know About the Urgent Action Funds New Report

The Urgent Action Funds, a consortium of four autonomous feminist funds (Urgent Action Fund-Africa, Urgent Action Fund Asia and Pacific, Urgent Action Fund Latin America and the Caribbean, and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights), launched a report that provides insights on prioritizing collective care to mitigate risks and promote the well-being and sustainability of feminist movements.

“How Can We Ground Ourselves in Care and Dance Our Revolution?” contains interviews with 141 activists in 63 countries speaking on how they integrate care into their activism and work. The report also calls on funders to provide more resources to fund collective care practices among feminist movements, directly providing recommendations, and next steps from activists on the frontlines. The perspectives shared in our report offer a unique and diverse understanding of collective care, highlighting the experiences of women, trans, and non-binary feminist activists who have been historically marginalized within social justice movements worldwide.

We’ve asked those who compiled the research to provide a deeper understanding of the importance of collective care in the feminist space.

A floral illustration with bodies of women and non-binary peoples.

What was the impetus for creating this publication?

Luz Stella Ospina, Co-Executive Director of Strategic Finances and Institutional Strengthening, UAF Latin America and the Caribbean
Terry de Vries,
Co-Executive Director for Resource Mobilization and Strategic Communications, UAF Latin America and the Caribbean

This being a global investigation, “How Can We Ground Ourselves in Care and Dance Our Revolution” is the first collective investigation produced by the consortium of Urgent Action Sister Funds. 10 years after the publication of “What is the Point of Revolution if We Can’t Dance?”, this new research on care echoed to us.

Our dear departed sister Tatiana Cordero Velázquez, the previous Executive Director of Urgent Action Fund Latin America and Caribbean, was the motivation for this report. With Tati’s guidance we created this report to explore- going beyond delivering funds to feminist activists through our rapid response grants, our political ethical commitment to care, the sustainability of activism through care, sharing daily care practices, the vulnerability and risk activists and movements face, and how we can advance collective care.

What is the importance of collective care for activists mitigating and navigating risk in their work?

Jebli Shrestha, Enabling Defenders Facilitator, Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific

“When an activist is attacked, finds themselves at risk, it is not just them who is at risk. What happens to them impacts their family, their community and everyone in the movement.”

The protection of activists means the collective protection of their community, without which there are no safe spaces for their activism to continue and survive. While a temporary protection mechanism can provide individualized support, survival of movements depends on collective safety and care. The culture of activism in our regions still does not prioritize self-care — there is an immense sense of guilt for taking care of yourself that comes from a celebrated heroism that is attributed to self-sacrifice.

Collectivizing caring of each of the members of the movement and the eco-system politicize “care” as an integral part of movements, helping shed away the associated guilt. This also creates spaces for conversation on what constitutes risk and its mitigation — protecting a person while defending their rights, their autonomy and agency. Civic spaces and safer spaces for defenders are rapidly decreasing in many countries in our regions. So it is critical to better resource and ensure the safety of activists as a collective act, fueled by collective care.

What can donors and philanthropy do to continue funding collective care work?

Somer Nowak, Collective Care Officer, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Not only are resources for feminist activists too scarce and difficult to access, but resources to fund care as a part of that activism is almost non-existent. Burnout is real, especially for those who are at risk, under threat, and working on life-threatening issues. Care, rest, promoting well-being is essential to sustaining activists and the movements.

In order to better support women, trans and non-binary activists to integrate care into their work, funders must:

  • Trust that grassroots feminist organizations know their local contexts best and how best to manage resources and achieve the best outcomes for their communities.
  • Continue to listen to movements with empathy, trust grantees’ expertise, and liberate resources toward what movements are asking for in their specific contexts rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to collective care.
  • Provide flexible, core and multi-year support not only for movements to sustain their work long-term, but also to give feminist organizations the freedom and autonomy to center care, safety and wellbeing in their organizational culture, practices and policies, and as integral to their organizing and activism.
  • Continue to evaluate their own practices and funding mechanisms and consider how they might pose undue burden and stress on grantees.

By investing in these areas, donors and philanthropy can help to create a more sustainable and inclusive movement that is responsive to the needs of its members and is better equipped to bring about lasting social change.

What do the sister funds see as the future of collective care regarding our work and grantmaking?

Masa Amir, Knowledge Leadership Manager, Urgent Action Fund-Africa

This complex work needs better-resourced movements with space to imagine necessary transformation and change. To the Urgent Action Sister Funds, the future of collective care in our work and grantmaking means rooting protection and care as well-being in action and centering care as a critical resource that addresses activists collective physical, mental, and emotional care needs. This is an enormous task, as it necessarily means creating a culture of trust that enables us to speak about what we are all bringing into our activism.

We know that isolated, burnt-out, sick activists whose collective experiences in activism spaces are characterized by conflict rarely implement measures that keep them secure. Centering collective care as a tool that addresses activists’ collective healing needs and support spaces where activists interrogate the collective traumas that are brought into activism spaces and what healing these wounds would look like.

The launch of this collective care research is an important milestone for feminist activism and social justice movements worldwide. Speaking about the importance of care practices in activism is relatively new, and we hope will be adopted by even more funders, activists and partners in the space as a result of this publication.

Download and share the full version of “How Can We Ground Ourselves in Care and Dance Our Revolution?”

An illustration of three bodies embracing each other over a background of trees.

--

--

Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific

A regional women’s human rights and feminist fund that protects, strengthens and sustains women and non-binary human rights defenders in Asia and the Pacific